BAKED NECTARINE FRENCH TOAST

I have a lot of necklaces. I’m not one to brag (or maybe I am), but I have a reputation at work for having the best necklaces. Really, I just have a lot of necklaces because I’m too lazy to put together real outfits. White shirt, black pants, big colorful necklace… Bam! Grey t-shirt, skinny jeans, big shiny necklace… Bam! Your outfit just went from boring to enviously desired. You could wear the same thing every day of the week and just throw on a different necklace and people think you’re stylish. Fools. Or maybe that truly is a way of being stylish… It’s my way anyway.

Anyway, my co-worker and friend, Andrea, realizes how genius this is. She’s going to a very casual wedding on the Cape this weekend, so naturally, she asked me if she could borrow some jewelry to spice up some of her linen pants-suits. Ha. I just said pants suit. Being the generous friend that I am, I invited her and her daughter over for dinner so that she could peruse all of my necklaces without me having to bring them all to work. Of course, she was delighted to do so. And once she got there, I think she was shocked at just how many necklaces I really do have. I kinda was too. I had forgotten about many of them.

Our original plan was to order take-out to keep things simple. But then Andrea came up with the brilliant plan to make french toast. And I added to this great idea by saying we should wear our pajamas! So, Andrea and Lydia came over, Lydia in her Little Mermaid pajamas, Andrea in yoga pants, and me in my plaid pj pants and Ray Rice t-shirt. They brought the bread and the stuff to dip the toast in (pre-mixed!). And I provided the baked nectarines to top off our french toast. It was so good! Through the entire dinner, we couldn’t stop complimenting ourselves on how smart we are. Breakfast, in your pajamas, in the early evening, followed by a necklace fashion show. What could be better?!

FRENCH TOAST WITH BAKED NECTARINES

Ingredients:

  • A loaf of bread (we used a few days old french bread), cut into 1/4-1/2 inch slices
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2-1 cup of milk (I can’t remember how much milk Andrea said she used)
  • 1 tbsp (or 2?) of vanilla
  • A few shakes of cinnamon
  • 2 nectarines, halved, seed removed
  • Drizzles of agave nectar
  • Butter, for the pan
  • Powdered sugar
  • Maple syrup, warmed in the microwave

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lay the nectarines, skins down, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a generous amount of agave nectar and sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. When soft and warmed through, slice into small chunks.

Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and some cinnamon in a large, shallow bowl. Heat a large plate or glass baking dish in the microwave.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Dip both sides of the bread into the egg mixture, fully saturating the bread, but not sogging it. Place bread in the skillet and cook until slightly browned. Flip and cook the other side until slightly browned. We were able to do 3 pieces of bread at a time. Transfer to the warm plate. (If you have two ovens, or if you cook your nectarines first, you can keep your french toast warm in the oven, at a very low temperature, until ready to serve.)

Serve french toast topped with powdered sugar, baked nectarines, and warmed maple syrup. Feel free to lick the plate when finished. And serve with mimosas if your crowd is old enough!

 

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FANTASY FOOTBALL

Football season is upon us, my friends. It’s hard to believe that summer is ending, kids are going back to school, and in two weeks, the Ravens will take the field for the season home opener against the Bengals–on a Monday night no less. I love football season. I may not always understand what’s going on on the field. But I love that our home team is purple and on Sundays in Baltimore, everywhere you look, people are donning my favorite color. I love Ray Rice and Ed Reed. I love the excitement that triggers touch-down dances and jumping up and down. And I love, love what I like to call “tailgating” food.

On Sunday night, my brother (who is 14) hosted a fantasy football draft party. He had all his little friends over, each with their laptops, sitting around the dining room table, screaming (or just talking loudly, but it sounded like screaming) “who just picked so and so?!” and “it’s your turn!” and “shut up!” It was really adorable. It was.

I offered to make some tailgating food for the party. And at Matt’s request, I had to make sure it “accented pizza,” whatever that means. In my book, wine and beer accent pizza. But I knew that wasn’t going to fly with a bunch of 13 and 14 year-olds. So instead, I made my buffalo chicken dip, baked potato dip, and “super bowl” cheese balls. I thought these were all good ideas for junk-food loving teenagers. I thought that it would all be devoured. I thought that growing boys ate people out of house and home. But they all seemed way too into their draft picks to pay too much attention to the food.

I also came to the realization during this party, that when I was Matt’s age, sitting around with my girl friends, giggling about boys, making prank calls, obsessing about who liked who, the boys who we thought must obviously be doing the same thing about us girls definitely were not.  They were busy doing their own thing, playing video games and sports, talking about draft picks, and which teachers gave a lot of homework. A gaggle of brace-faced girls was clearly not their focus in life. It explains a lot. I did hear one boy say, as he was typing on his iPhone, rolling his eyes, that this girl gets pissed when he doesn’t respond to her texts. Other than that, I did not hear a peep about girls. Maybe it’s because my mom and I were in ear shot, but they honestly did not seem to care. Straight teeth and fifteen years later, it seems like nothing has changed.

BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

Now, I realize everyone has their own way of making buffalo chicken dip. I got this particular recipe from a former co-worker of mine, back when I ate meat. I’ve changed it slightly over the years.

Ingredients:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, with the fat trimmed

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese (the kind that comes in a brick. feel free to use low fat)

Blue Cheese Dressing, to taste

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, to taste (or whatever brand you like)

A bunch of shredded cheddar cheese

A few handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 green onion, for garnish

Chips, bread, carrots, celery, or whatever you like for dipping

Directions:

Boil the chicken breasts until cooked all the way through. Let them cool enough to handle and then shred the chicken into rather small pieces. (You could do this the day before if you wanted.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large skillet, heat the cream cheese over medium heat until it becomes soft and pretty melty. Stir frequently so that it doesn’t burn on one side. Once your cream cheese is soft (and no longer a giant brick), add the chicken, blue cheese and hot sauce. The more blue cheese, the milder and thinner your dip. Add enough hot sauce so that your concoction turns orange. Then add a few handfuls of cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Cook just a few minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Transfer to a baking dish. Top with more cheddar cheese. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly and maybe even a little brown on top.

Garnish with green onions and celery leaves (if desired). Serve immediately with whatever dippers you choose! I used Tostitos for the boys. I had celery too but I forgot to put it out!

 

LOADED BAKED POTATO DIP

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 slices of bacon
  • 1 16-oz container of sour cream
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup of chives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of hot sauce (or to taste)
  • A little salt and pepper
  • Waffle fries and/or wavy potato chips

Directions:

Cook your bacon however you like to cook bacon. I cooked mine in the oven on a grill pan (kinda like this), on 350 degrees, for a few minutes on each side, until it was nice and crispy. I had never made bacon before (since I don’t eat meat), but this is how my mom cooks it. It is so much easier than on a skillet! Much less mess. I think my mom sprayed the pan first… Anyway, once the bacon is cool to the touch, crumble it, reserving one piece for garnish (crumbled).

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients (except for the waffle fries and potato chips) and mix until well blended. Garnish with bacon crumbles and a few extra copped chives. Serve with warm waffle fries and potato chips.

Recipe adapted from: allrecipes

SUPER BOWL CHEESE BALLS 

These are a recipe I had seen on Pinterest last football season and really wanted to make. They look so good! I’d really built them up in my mind… only to be let down. They weren’t that easy to make and I didn’t love the way they tasted. The sauce also made way too much! So, here’s how I would do it next time. Although, I doubt there will be a next time!

SAUCE:

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes, with the juice (I would not use this whole can. Maybe only half or the next size down.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and soft. Add in the crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and salt and pep. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir frequently. Set aside (and reheat right before serving).

Note: The recipe I used called for a half a cup of olive oil. This was way too much and I could not get the tomatoes and the oil to mix, no matter how long I simmered and stirred. It also made a HUGE mess on my mom’s stove. Sauce bubbles were exploding all over the place! 

CHEESE BALLS:

  • 3-4 cups peanut oil, depending on type of pan you will be frying the cheese in
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 2 lb. mozzarella bocconcini (about 50 pieces)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Drain your cheese balls and pat dry with a paper towel. If they seem large, cut into bite sized pieces. It’s okay if they aren’t round!

Whisk together the eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Mix the panko, parmesan, and salt in another shallow bowl. Put the flour in yet another shallow bowl. Heat your peanut oil. If you have a deep frying thermometer, it should be 350 degrees. I did not have one of those. So, I just put enough oil in a sauce pan to cover my cheese balls and heated it until it almost looked like cracks were forming in the bottom of the pan. I did not have enough peanut oil once things got going, so I switched to canola.

Dip cheese balls into flour, then egg mixture, then panko mixture. Repeat. Each ball should be dipped twice. I thought I was reading that wrong at first, but no, you really dip in flour, egg, panko, flour, egg, panko. Otherwise, the breading would likely fall off as soon as you fry.

In batches, fry the cheese balls for a few minutes, turning so they are fully submerged in the oil, and until they are browned. Place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven while you are cooking the other batches of cheese balls to keep them warm.

Salt to taste and serve immediately with the sauce.

Note: This recipe was exhausting. I would only make half of it next time. I got super sick of dipping my cheese balls and frying them. I eventually quit, with about 10 cheeseballs left to fry. I also could really taste the peanut oil. Not sure if that’s b/c the bottle I used was old, but next time, I might stick with canola oil from the beginning. Oh, wait, there isn’t going to be a next time. I forgot. 

Recipe adapted from: the Curvy Carrot.

 

BAKED NECTARINES

I like to give myself snaps for this recipe. It’s not complicated, it’s not super creative, but it’s mine. I made it up all by myself a few years ago, before this blog was ever even a thought in my mind and before I did much in the kitchen beyond making grilled cheese and heating up Lean Cuisines in the microwave.

I was living in Federal Hill at the time. One random week night, when I was home alone, most likely watching the Bachelorette, I had a hankering for something sweet. I don’t usually keep sweets in the house because I don’t like to tempt myself, but sometimes, you just NEED something sweet. Ya know? I didn’t want to risk losing my parking spot to go out to get anything. And it was late, so I couldn’t phone a friend (preferably one with a parking pad) to head out on this excursion with me. So, the next logical step was to rummage through the cabinets, freezer, fridge, nightstands, trying to find something sweet that I could steal from my roommates. Then I came across a nectarine or peach (I can’t remember) and a bottle of maple syrup. A light bulb went off inside my head. Now, whether or not I stole the ingredients for this recipe is irrelevant, because I cannot remember those details. Truthfully, there’s a lot about this story that I can’t remember (I made up most of the details above), but the important thing is a genius idea was born that night. I cut the nectarine in half, drizzled some syrup on it, baked it in the oven, and viola! I had an amazing, unexpected, sweet treat. I’ve modified the recipe a bit over the years and have lived to tell about it.

BAKED NECTARINES

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 ripe nectarines (or however many you need/want, depending on your number of guests, but I’d say 1 nectarine for every two people)
  • Agave nectar (or maple syrup, or honey)
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown sugar (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut each nectarine in half and discard the seed. Set nectarines down on a foil lined baking sheet, skin side down, cut side up. Drizzle with agave nectar, about 1 tbsp worth, allowing a few small pools to form in the nectarine, where the seed was. Sprinkle cinnamon liberally over the nectarines. If using, add a few pinches of brown sugar.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the nectarines are soft and warm all the way through. Serve with a dip of your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt!

Note: You can use peaches, but I personally prefer nectarines. This is such an easy dessert, but I’m telling you, it will impress any dinner guest! I know from experience.

CHEESY QUINOA CAKES: TAKE TWO

So, I know I already posted about these quinoa cakes. But I made them again last night and they came out so much better. So I must tell you what I did differently. First, I used shredded cheese, and by cheese I mean mozzarella flavored rice shreds (aka vegan cheese) and two dollops of cream cheese and by cream cheese I mean Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (aka vegan cream cheese). Also, I added the quinoa to the mixture while it was still hot, which allowed the cheese to melt. The melted cheese and the addition of the cream cheese really made the cakes a consistency that stayed together much better when cooking. I also added fresh basil and garlic powder to the “batter.” And I fried them in a small skillet, that only allowed me to make 3 at a time. They were so much better. I took them to a girl’s night, where they seemed to be a hit!

REVISED CHEESY QUINOA CAKES

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • about 1/3 or 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, vegan cheese is optional
  • 2 dollops of cream cheese, vegan cheese is optional
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin
  • a handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • a few sprinkles of garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • canola oil (for the skillet)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for the oil) in a mixing bowl and mix together until well blended. Heat oil in a small-medium skillet over medium heat. Form patties out of the mixture, using a tablespoon to help determine how much “batter” to use. Cook the patties in the skillet a few at a time, until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. The more oil you have in the skillet, the less dry the patties will get, making them taste better in the end.

Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce or aioli.

Peanut Butter Snack Spread

If loving Lauren Conrad is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right. I can’t help it. I love her. I feel like I should be over her by now, but I’m not. She always wears super cute, perfectly styled outfits and I think we all can agree that she has the best hair in Hollywood (with Jennifer Aniston coming in a close second).  I follow her on Pinterest, so it kinda feels like we’re gal pals. Most of her pins are from her own blog, which I think is kinda lame (and this is just between us, but I think her blog is annoying, which saddens me considering I’ve been holding LC on a pedestal since she actually went by LC on Laguna Beach, yet I visit it pretty regularly).

The other day Lauren pinned a peanut butter spread to have as a snack with apples. It’s simply peanut butter, vanilla Greek yogurt, honey and cinnamon whipped together. I went to a girls night last night and brought this little snack. Since bias are always trying to eat healthy and watch their figures, I figured it’d be the perfect, easy treat. Plus, I love PB and I love Greek yogurt, so combining them seemed like a no brainer. It was so yummy! I think I will start making it to have as an afternoon snack when I am craving something sweet.

PEANUT BUTTER SNACK SPREAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 small tub of vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tbsp of peanut butter (I used all natural. I think it’s creamier, so it stirs more easily. but I think this would also be good with chunky peanut butter! Trader Joe’s all natural chunky PB is my favorite.)
  • Lots of sprinkles of cinnamon, to taste
  • Lots of drizzles of honey, to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and blend together until smooth. Serve with sliced apples or graham crackers or Hershey’s bars or whatever you like! Best when served at girls night with about 8 bottles of wine.

Note: I had a hard time finding vanilla vs. plain yogurt, but eventually I saw that Oikos makes some. did you also know that Oikosyogurt.com has a whole page of Greek yogurt recipes? I just found that out. If you don’t know, now you know… fill in the blank.

Recipe adapted from: Yahoo! Lifestyle

Vegetable Enchiladas

Mexican food is easy. I hate to say it, considering I wait tables at a Mexican restaurant on Friday nights and like to pretend we’re gourmet and shit, but it is. Or at least it can be. Soft tacos are my go-to when I don’t feel like making anything else. Mexican lasagna has always been a pot-luck crowd pleaser of mine (back before there was such a thing as Pinterest and I didn’t know I could cook). And beans and rice? How can you mess that up? Plus, I don’t know too many folks who would say no to cheese and sour cream.

So when I realized I’d be throwing a dinner party two nights in a row, I decided that I could only handle being (or, er… pretend to be) a contestant on Top Chef for one night (see No-Bake Zucchini Lasagna). I had my newlywed friends, Kate and Greg, who also happen to be my new neighbors, over for dinner last night and decided to take the easy but delicious way out with vegetable enchiladas, adapted from Annie’s Eats. I’ve been following Annie’s Eats for a while now, and I gotta hand it to Annie. She’s never let me down. I mean, I’ve only ever actually made two of her recipes, but everything she posts looks good, and that’s gotta count for something.

I made the enchilada sauce on Sunday and chopped all of my vegetables for the enchiladas on Monday night (after my first dinner party guests left). Good thing too because there was an accident on my way home from work, leaving me with less time to get ready than I had planned! There’s nothing like a traffic jam to really screw things up.

Anyway, the enchiladas were a hit and I really had a great time with my neighbs. It was a beautiful night and the sunlight in my apartment was just right. We shared great wine, lots of laughter, gossip about the neighborhood, book club discussions, plans for eating funnel cake at the state fair, and Kate even managed to fix my smoke detector… that Greg broke while they were over… right after he told me he could be my handyman. Thanks, but no thanks.

VEGETABLE ENCHILADAS

SAUCE:

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
  • ½-¾ cup water
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin and sugar and cook just until fragrant.  Stir in the tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Again, I made this two days in advance and stored in the fridge until I was ready to use. You can also freeze if you want to save for longer.

FILLING:

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I used half of a large onion)
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine (I used parts of a red and a yellow pepper)
  • 1 (8 oz.) zucchini, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped (I used half of a green zucchini and half of an orange one, both of which I sliced thin with the mandolin)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (I only had one, so that’s all I used. I added a dash of garlic powder to make up for it)
  • 1½ cups enchilada sauce (above), divided
  • 1 cup finely crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese (I used feta)
  • ½ cup minced fresh cilantro (again, didn’t measure this)
  • ¼ cup drained chopped canned green chiles (didn’t have these, so didn’t use)
  • Salt and pepper (I think I forgot the salt and pepper…)

Preheat the oven to 450˚ F.  Put black beans in a bowl and mash with a fork until almost completely smooth.  Set aside.  Add the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until slightly softened, 5-7 minutes.  Add the zucchini and cook just until tender, 3-5 minutes more.   Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the beans and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the veggie mixture to a large bowl and stir in ½ cup of the enchilada sauce, the queso fresco, cilantro and green chiles (if using).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble, briefly microwave the tortillas until warm and pliable, about 30 seconds.  (Mine were already pliable, so I skipped this step). Place about 1/3 cup of the filling mixture (or however much you think is good, I didn’t measure) down the center of a tortilla.  Tightly roll up the tortilla and place in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, seam side down.  Repeat with the remaining filling and tortillas.  Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the enchiladas, spreading it evenly.  Sprinkle with shredded cheddar over the top of the sauce.  Cover with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, about 10 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes more. Sprinkle with additional queso fresco or feta and cilantro for garnish, if desired.  Serve warm with lime wedges and Fat Tire.

Note: I had a lot of the filling leftover. I might just eat it as is, with some of the leftover enchilada sauce. Or perhaps I’ll wrap in flour tortillas. Or serve over rice. Or with quinoa. Or over a bed of spinach or arugula. Or make a taco salad. Or put over chips to make nachos… The possibilities are endless! 

No-Bake Dinner Party

Last night I hosted a small dinner party for a few friends who had yet to see my “new” apartment. I moved in 7 months ago, so I’m not sure if I can still call it new, but whatever. I love entertaining and I love my “new” apartment, so I was excited to have them over (read: show off my place and make more recipes for my blog). My menu consisted of cheesy quinoa cakes for an appetizer, Caesar salad with homemade dressing, no-bake zucchini lasagna, and my famous baked nectarines with ice cream for dessert. (I’m going to post the nectarines in a different post. They deserve their own post.)

I had planned to get up early on Sunday morning and hit the farmer’s market for my ingredients, but a few too many glasses of wine the night before robbed me of such ambition. (I think I even planned to ride my bike to the farmer’s market with a perfect stranger while said glasses of wine were being drunk… We all knew that wasn’t happening. Thank God.) Lately, you say the word booze and I have a hangover. Is this what life after your 20s is like?! Anyway, I went to Whole Foods instead, got sushi for breakfast and loaded up on the essentials for the dinner party, including a pretzel roll from the bakery to eat in the car on the way home. Like I said, essentials.

When I got home, I set to work. Despite my wine headache and the fact that Bravo was playing the same Million Dollar Listing marathon that I’d already watched twice, I had a lovely Sunday full of cooking, eating, cooking, napping, eating, and cooking for my dinner party. Not once did I turn into a psychotic ball of stress, which is my typical M.O. for playing hostess.  It made for a lovely dinner party. My guests had a great time, learned all about quinoa and tahini, finished off a bottle of Lambrusco, and seemed to really enjoy their food. I would have done a few things differently (which I’ll explain in the recipes below), but overall, I was pleased with how everything turned out and really hope my friends weren’t just being polite when they said everything was delicious.

QUINOA CAKES WITH CHIPOTLE SAUCE

I got the recipe for these cheesey quinoa cakes from Pinterest (where else) and had made them once before. They say practice makes perfect, but these were better the first time. The recipe on Pinterest calls for fontina cheese, which at the time, I had no clue what that was. So, I just bought a bag of already shredded monterey jack cheese. This time I used actual fontina that I grated myself… with a vegetable peeler. (I really need to get a cheese grater). I feel like the consistency of the monterey jack cheese was much better (softer, melted more easily), so it really helped hold the cakes together. They still tasted great with the fontina, but were much more crumbly. I really have no idea if that was the reason or if it was something else I did, but that’s what I’m blaming it on. Oh, and I totally made up the recipe for the dipping sauce, so please excuse the seriously rough measurements.

QUINOA CAKES:

  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 2/3 (ish) cup of shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 3 tbsp of all purpose flour
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste (load it up)
  • Olive oil (for the pan)

Combine all ingredients (except olive oil) in a mixing bowl and stir until well combined. (I did all of this the night before my dinner party and kept in the fridge over night. That way all I had to do was fry them a few minutes before serving. If making all at once, let the mixture sit for a few minutes so it can “set up.”) Heat a good amount of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Form patties in your hand and place in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Before putting the cakes on your fancy serving platter, set on a plate with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

DIPPING SAUCE:

  • ¼ cup (ish) of non-fat greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup (ish) of Veganaise (feel free to use real but light mayo)
  • Lemon juice (I used from a bottle, and just kept squirting it in until I felt like it was good (that’s what she said). Maybe 2-3 tbsps?)
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • A dash or two of garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir until well blended. Get it to the taste and consistency that you like and you’re done! Super easy, and can be used for other snacks too! Serve in a cute dish alongside your quinoa cakes with a cute little spreading knife.

Note: Frying the patties is not as easy as it sounds. It helps to really mush them together/press down on them with a spatula while they are in the pan. Flipping them can be tricky and pieces will fall off, but it’s okay! They’ll still taste great. And your guests will be getting protein without even knowing it!

Recipe adapted from: spoonforkbacon.com

CEASAR SALAD WITH HOMEMADE DRESSING AND CROUTONS

This recipe is from Alicia Silverstone’s, the Kind Diet, which if you haven’t read, I highly recommend it. It’s a life changer. I pretty much followed it exactly, but of course, added a little extra of each ingredient as I went so that it was to my preferred taste. I made the dressing and the croutons the night before and have enough dressing leftover to make this salad again tonight. I’m also just guessing at the amounts b/c I don’t have the recipe in front of me. Oh, and Alicia Silverstone would never use cheese, like I did. Shhh. Don’t tell her!

DRESSING:

  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (shoyu or tamari)
  • 2-3 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp slivered almonds (she says blanched or roasted. I am lazy and bought slivered almonds in the baking needs aisle)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth (or close to smooth. It’s okay if you have a few almond chunks).

CROUTONS:

  • 1-2 cups of old bread, cubed (I used what was left of an olive loaf from the farmer’s market last weekend)
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the bread in a small mixing bowl and add all other ingredients to taste, so that the bread is well coated. A little o this, a little o that. Lay bread over a baking sheet lined with foil (optional) so that it’s in one layer. Bake for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, or until the bread is crispy, like a crouton!

SALAD:

  • 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • Your Caesar dressing (as much as you like)
  • Your croutons
  • A few handfuls of grated parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl a few minutes before serving and mix well. Ta-da!

Recipe adapted from: The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

NO-BAKE ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

Every time I said “no-bake,” people got confused and thought I was saying no-boil, since no-boil lasagna noodles are, like, a thing now. So, when you buy your lasagna noodles, make sure you buy the old fashion, boil-in-a-pot-of-water noodles! Again this is a Pinterest recipe, originally adapted from Martha Stewart, who I am sure has sous chefs to help her plate her food. This recipe calls for plating each serving individually, which at first I thought was really cool and felt like I was on an episode of Top Chef, trying to win the quick fire. But I soon realized it’s not that cool when Tom Coliccio isn’t there and your guests are standing around watching you, all waiting for each plate to be done before they can eat. So, I think this dish is better for a smaller group of people (there were only 5 of us, so by smaller, I mean 1-2 people). It also wasn’t cool that I really didn’t have enough for everyone to have seconds and that if anyone did want another plate (like I did), I’d have go back and do the whole process over again. If you can find a way to pre-plate and then heat it up, go for it. I made the sauce and cheese mixture and sliced my zucchini the day before.

SAUCE

  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups pearl tomatoes, diced (no clue what pearl tomatoes are. I used small heirlooms)
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Saute onion, carrot, and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil. Cook for another 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. In a food processor or blender, lightly pulse sauce. Set aside.

FILLING

  • 10-12 lasagna noodles, broken in half
  • 1-2 zucchini, thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped (this was not in the original recipe I found. But it was an awesome addition.)
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Stir together ricotta, parmesan, basil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Cook noodles according to package instructions in a pot of well-salted water. Meanwhile, cook zucchini for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare, add a little sauce to each plate. Top with noodle. Add a thin layer of the ricotta mixture followed by a layer of zucchini. Top with a little sauce and repeat two more times. Top with final noodle. Garnish with remaining sauce, fresh parmesan, basil and mint. Serve.

Note: There were just enough ingredients for me to make one more serving of this after my guests had left. I put it all together in a Tupperware container so that I could take it to work for lunch today. It did not stay together neatly when I transferred to my plate and really did not heat evenly in the microwave. Now, our office microwave sucks. But this is something to keep in mind if you decide to pre-plate. This definitely tastes better when served immediately.

Recipe adapted from: http://thefauxmartha.com/

Pinterest Potatoes

It happens to all of us. We stare into the fridge, door wide open, wasting energy, not seeing any of the food or possibilities in front of us. Exasperated, we eventually slam the door shut and exclaim, “MOM, there is NO food in this house!!!” But actually, the shelves are packed to the gills. Last night was one of those nights.

So maybe I didn’t yell MOM (you know, since I’m an adult now and live on my own) and I don’t think I slammed any doors. But I did stand my kitchen for a good 5 minutes, opening and closing the refrigerator, taking things out, then putting them back, talking out loud to myself about what the hell I was gonna make for dinner. I knew what my problem was. I was craving was another potato pie (that and I’m an indecisive person). But I didn’t have any more dough, so I would have to live without. The potatoes I had leftover from the farmer’s market were getting a little soft, so I had to use them. Then I remembered these potatoes that I pinned a few weeks ago and thought perfect, I’ll make something like that. Since the flavors of the potato pie were still in the front of my brain, I decided to incorporate the extra rosemary, fontina, and onion. And I have to say, the end result was pretty delicious! I was pleasantly surprised. Especially since I made a few rookie mistakes in the prep of this recipe (I put the cheese and onions on the potatoes at the start, forgetting potatoes take way longer to cook. duh, Sarah, duh!). Since I got the idea to slice the potatoes like this from Pinterest, I am calling this recipe, Pinterest Potatoes.

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Pinterest Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • A few medium potatoes (or however many you want to make. I made three. Two of my potatoes were pretty small.)
  • A quarter of a white onion, sliced thin (optional)
  • Fontina or parmesan cheese
  • Fresh rosemary, about one sprig or to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • A few drizzles of olive oil (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the flattest side of your potato down, and cut 3-4 mm slices from one end of the potato to the other, but don’t cut all the way through. Spread potato slices out a bit. Place in an oven safe dish.

Combine garlic and butter in a small dish, preferably one with a spout. Heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or until the butter is melted. Pour over the potatoes, making sure to get it between the cracks. There will be butter spilled over into your dish, but that’s a good thing! Here’s where you can drizzle a little olive oil in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and rosemary. If using onions, put them in your butter dish and swirl them around, so they get a light coating of butter and garlic. Or toss them in olive oil in a separate dish. (I’m lazy so I prefer to use as few dishes as possible when cooking so I don’t have as much to clean up.)

Bake the potatoes in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until they seem like they are pretty close to being done. Remove from oven and top with cheese and, if using, scatter onions in the dish. Bake for another 10-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and potatoes are crispy on the outside. Top with a bit more rosemary and fresh cheese and enjoy! Best when eaten while watching Million Dollar Listing repeats.

A few notes: Because I am an idiot and put my cheese and onions in way too early, my taters came out with some crispy cheese hunks and some black onion straws. I still ate some of the onion straws b/c I actually like the taste of burnt food. But I realize that burnt food isn’t for everyone. Before I ate the potatoes, I added some fresh parmesan cheese flakes and a few extra rosemary leaves (I guess you’d call them leaves, right?).

Potato Pie

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I turned 30 two weeks ago. Please. It’s really not a big deal. For my birthday celebration (one of many), I went to dinner with my mom, step-dad and sister at Chazz, a relatively new restaurant in my favorite part of town, where I wish I could afford to live. I was trying to be good all week (read: eat healthy and work out every day) so I could look good at my “friend birthday party” that coming Saturday. Well, so much for that. I ate more that night than I thought was possible, even for me. And that’s sayin a lot. If my intention was to be “good,” who knows why I chose an Italian restaurant. Whatever. I wanted to try it. My parents were paying. You know how it goes.

Everything I ate was good (obvi), although I can’t say I was overly impressed with the creativity of the menu. I’m sure it’s more enticing for a meat-eater (which I am not). But I can’t even get into everything I ate that night because it’s all overshadowed by the potato pizza that we decided to get as an appetizer. Potatoes on a pizza? Sign me up. (I ate two pieces before we even got our entrees, I mean, salads/appetizer round 2.)

I’ve been thinking about that pizza every day since. The cravings were getting intense. I knew I could re-create that potato pie.

My sister makes a mean pizza. She considers herself somewhat of an expert in the pizza pie department. She makes the dough from scratch. And uses seminola flour (which she tells me is what they use in real pizza parlors). And heats her pizza stone for hours. She’s, like, the real deal. She even critiqued the pie at Chazz. So, of course, I wanted her to help me with this endeavor but she was busy celebrating her first wedding anniversary. The nerve. Fortunately, I had had her make a bunch of pizzas for my apt warming party a few months ago. I had some dough leftover, frozen in the freezer. And on Saturday, I bought myself a mandolin (not the musical instrument). So I knew that despite my sister being busy, the purchase of this fine kitchen tool meant that the time for my potato pie had come. I bought some potatoes and fresh rosemary at the farmer’s market on Sunday morning, and as soon as I got home from sleeping at the pool all afternoon, I took my dough out of the freezer to thaw. A few hours later, and I had created my own version of the Chazz potato pie.

Since this is my first recipe that I’ve ever posted, I should probably warn you all that I don’t measure anything. So, forgive me if I’m vague when I say how much to use of something.

POTATO PIE

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Ingredients:

  • Homemade pizza dough. (You can find a recipe from Bon Appetit here. But note that this recipe requires you to make the dough a day in advance.)
  • 3-4 small to medium potatoes, thinly sliced (thank you, mandolin)
  • 1/4 of a white onion, thinly sliced (again, credit to the mandolin)
  • Fontina cheese
  • A few dollops of ricotta cheese
  • Fresh rosemary, about one sprig
  • A few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • A dash of garlic powder
  • Some flour (seminola if you have it. I didn’t. I used regular old baking flour. take that pizza parlor!)
  • Tools: a mandolin, a pizza stone, and a pizza peel (I don’t have one of those. I just used a wooden cutting board with no edges. I told myself I was making a potato flat bread, so it totally made sense.)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.

Heat the pizza stone in the oven one hour before you are ready to bake your pizza.

Combine the potato slices, onion, rosemary, some olive oil (enough to coat the potatoes), salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl. If you’ve bought your fontina in block form like I did (truthfully, I got my block of cheese from my mom, so I have no idea how it’s actually sold in the store. I’m not even really sure if what she gave me was fontina. It was in an unlabeled zip-loc baggie.), you can use the mandolin to slice it, like I did. The mandolin. So useful. Or use a cheese grater, like a normal person. I’d say I probably sliced about 3/4 or 1 cup of fontina.

Roll out your dough onto a well floured surface. Get it to the size and shape you want. I made sure mine would fit on my make-shift pizza peel. Transfer the dough to the pizza peel, which should also be well floured. (I forgot to do this before I topped the pizza. Big mistake.) Brush a thin layer of olive oil onto your dough. Plop on a few random dollops of ricotta cheese. Cover the dough surface with a layer of fontina. Then neatly arrange your potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with a tad more salt, pepper, and rosemary. I had some leftover slices of fontina, so I threw those on top. Don’t put too much cheese on top of the potatoes though.

Once your pizza stone is well heated and you’re ready to bake, gently slide the pizza from the peel onto the pizza stone (do not take stone out of the oven for this step. that’s why you have a pizza peel). Bake the pizza at 500 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned, the cheese is sizzling and the dough is cooked to your preferred level of crispiness. Then very carefully transfer the pizza from the stone (while still in the oven) back onto the pizza peel. Let cool and enjoy! Served best with a nice whopping glass of red wine.

A few notes: It says on the menu at Chazz that they use yukon potatoes, but I don’t know the difference between potatoes, other than sweet potatoes and regular potatoes… okay that’s not true. I know about fingerlings and red potatoes and purple potatoes. But yukon, russett, kennebec… It’s too much. So who knows what kind of potatoes I used here. Just get whatever yellow potato you like… or whatever they’re selling at the farmer’s market.

Hello world!

So, I’ve decided to start a blog. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted my focus to be and didn’t want be just another female blogger rambling on at random. So I thought about the blogs I really like, the ones I keep going back to, and the ones I tell my friends about. They all have different subjects/focuses, but what they had in common was simplicity, humor, honesty and personality. I’m hoping this blog will have the same!

With the invention of Pinterest, I find that I am trying new recipes all the time these days. So, I’m starting this blog as a way to share what I’ve been doing in the kitchen, put my own twist on recipes, and see where it goes from there. If later I decide I want to ramble on at random about random topics, well then, that’s my prerogative.  (side note: I’ve always been one to brag about my spelling skills, but I really just had no idea how to spell prerogative. Who knew it had two R’s!)

In my family, my sister has always been the one with the reputation for cooking and baking. At family gatherings, I’d offer to bring a dish, only to be told–via group emails– maybe I should just bring some wine. (okay, that only happened once) But I could see in the same email chain a request for my sister that said “Can you bring those pea puffs you always make?” I felt slighted. My uncle Mike is an amazing cook. I swear, he’s the male version of Martha Stewart. He could out craft/cook/garden that B in a heartbeat. Anyway, he loves to talk cooking. He and my sister are always talking recipes. “The other day I made the Tres Leches from Tartine… blah blah blah.” I’d try to insert myself into the conversation, only to have my comments fall flat, while they exchanged looks that said “why is she talking?” Perhaps that’s just in my head (I can be sensitive), but my point is that it’s ironic that, of all things, I’d start a blog about food. Well, maybe it’s not ironic that it’s about food because everyone knows I love to eat. But it’s ironic that it’s about recipes, about cooking, about my adventures in the kitchen. I think I and my family are starting to realize that my Pinterest addiction has taken a turn for the delicious. I feel like I’ve become quite the little chef. Modifying recipes, making up recipes, scouring Pinterest for more recipes, making things from scratch. NBD.

Last week, my sister sent me a photo of farmer’s market pasta that looked delicious. I asked her to share the recipe with me (get this– she got the recipe from a MAGAZINE. A real, live magazine, like with actual pages that you turn. so I can’t link you to it. otherwise, I would.) and after I made it, I was like holy crap, that was amazing! So I shared the recipe with my co-workers, but I inserted my own comments and modifications and personality to the recipe (since I had to re-type the whole recipe since it’s from a magazine and… it’s a long story). It was fun and well-received. And so, the focus for my blog, albeit temporary, was born.

While my sister’s the chef/baker in the family (a well-deserved title, I must add), I’ve always been known as the writer. We all have our special traits and talents, right? My family’s probably wondering what took me so long to start doing something with my writing (beyond writing in my diary and sending witty emails). I’m not sure if this is “something” or what this will turn into, but it’s a start. And it’s kinda funny/ironic that I’ve chosen recipes as my focus for now. Maybe after a few posts, I’ll be asked to bring something other than wine to our next holiday dinner.

Disclaimer: I like to exaggerate. And I’m pretty sarcastic. I have brought more than wine to family parties. I’ve made plenty of recipes that have been a hit. My “tailgating” food always seems to be the most popular. But I swear, for a while people were surprised when they learned I contributed more than Christmas Pictionary.